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Supplement Series – Carbs

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sweet tartsSee the original post at CSFitLife.

Remember, we are looking at nutritional supplements and how they can benefit us in and out of the gym. Also, remember that if your diet, sleep, and recovery are crap… supplements are a waste of money!

If you are interested in improving any aspect of training, nutrition, or recovery, or if you need help finding specific a supplement to meet your needs, email me at

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For our fifth and final week, I thought we would take a look at Carbs!

Key Points:

  • Ingesting high-glycemic carbs post training helps with recovery and nutrient delivery.
  • To get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to post training carbs, consider taking them immediately following your training session.
  • Vitargo is probably the best post training carb source; however, due to its cost, dextrose is a great replacement.
  • You can purchase pure dextrose powder. Wonka Pixy Stix and SweeTarts or Haribo Gummy Bears are also great sources of dextrose.
  • Consider taking 20-60 grams of high-glycemic carbs immediately following training.

Wait… I thought these posts were about supplements?!?!

While this post is about carbohydrates (carbs), it is also about supplements. Let me explain…

In the protein post, we discussed that when we perform high intensity workouts (like CrossFit), we use glycogen (stored carbs) as the primary fuel. By the end of the workout, our stores are diminished. So, we need to top them off. Also, taking in fast digesting carbs post-workout can help with nutrient uptake and speed recovery.

In the creatine post, we talked about how adding carbs to creatine can increase total muscle creatine levels by 60%[i] Also, protein plus carbs or just carbs with creatine increased muscle retention of creatine by 25%.[ii]

So, ingesting carbs following a training session is twofold. First, it helps to replenish the glycogen stores that were depleted during the training. Second, the carbs can help shuttle nutrients to the muscles.

So, how soon should I take the post training nutrition?

Good question!

While there is some debate, the consensus is that to reap the benefits, post training nutrition should be ingested immediately following a training session during the “the window of opportunity”. During this window, your muscles are ready to accept and utilize the nutrients taken in for muscle repair, muscle growth, and muscle strength. If there is a delay in consuming the post training nutrition by as little as 2 hours, we can see a decrease in the benefits![iii] So, if we want to get the synergistic effects of the post training nutrition and replenish muscle glycogen stores, consuming high-glycemic carbs immediately following the training session is best.

Also consider that when carbs are consumed immediately following a training session, our bodies try to refill our glycogen stores by over-compensating. However, like I noted above, delaying the post workout nutrition by as little as two hours can decrease the benefits. In fact, delaying carb consumption by just 2 hours has been shown to reduce the rate of glycogen replenishment by 50%.[iv]

Another aspect to consider about high-glycemic carbs post training is their impact on insulin. High-glycemic carbs, as well as whey protein and the BCAA leucine, cause a dramatic rise in insulin levels. An increase in insulin following a training session is very important. The rise in insulin causes muscles cells to more readily absorb nutrients like amino acids, creatine, etc.[v]

Also, consuming liquid protein and carbs soon after a training session has been shown to enhance muscle glycogen resynthesis when compared to either just carbs or a placebo.[vi]

What are high-glycemic carbs?

High-glycemic carbs include sugar, white bread, some fruits, white rice, etc. However, for the purpose of getting the most out of your post training nutrition, not just any high-glycemic carbs will do.

Dextrose is the preferred post training carb (see my note on Vitargo below). It is a simple sugar chemically identical to glucose and consuming it after a training session means that the body doesn’t need to digest it and it can be absorbed into the bloodstream almost as quickly as it is ingested.[vii]

Translation: Dextrose gets the recovery party started quickly!

You can purchase pure dextrose. I personally use Now Dextrose Powder. If you want some candy, here is your opportunity. Wonka Pixy Stix and SweeTarts or Haribo Gummy Bears are great sources of dextrose.

What about Fruit?

Fructose is the form of sugar found in fruits. Unlike dextrose (i.e. glucose), fructose is not absorbed immediately into the bloodstream. Instead, it has to go through the liver, where it can be converted into glucose and stored as glycogen. The liver then controls when the stored glycogen gets released to maintain blood glucose levels.[viii]

So, not only does the liver control the fate and timing, the whole process takes longer than using dextrose. Remember, the idea is to get the nutrients to the muscles as quickly as possible. When compared to dextrose, fructose is the slower of the two.

What about Vitargo?

Vitargo is a molecular carbohydrate derived from a special barley starch. Like dextrose, Vitargo is a great carb to take post training. It leaves the stomach 80% faster than other sports drinks[ix] and restores glycogen levels 70% faster.[x]

Translation: Vitargo is probably a better choice post training than dextrose or other carbs but see the caveat below.

True, Vitargo appears to be a better choice for post training carbs than dextrose. However, the down fall with Vitargo is the cost. Vitargo is 7-10 times more expensive than buying pure dextrose… YIKES! If you can afford it, go for it! If not, sticking with dextrose is probably the best overall option.

How much do I take and when do I take it?

Let’s look to Dr. Stoppani again. He recommends about 20-60 grams of high-glycemic carbs following a training session. The amount depends on your weight, goals, and the intensity and duration of the workout. He also notes that if a large amount of high-glycemic carbs causes you to feel lethargic, then try taking a smaller dose of high-glycemic carbs, around 15-30 grams, and follow it with a small dose of low-glycemic carbs, another 15-30 grams, such as fruit, oatmeal, sweet potato, etc.[xi]

My Take…

  • High-glycemic carbs post training helps with recovery and nutrient delivery.
  • I personally prefer Now Dextrose Powder post training but will sub Wonka Pixy Stix and SweeTarts or Haribo Gummy Bears in a pinch.
  • Consider taking 20-60 grams of high-glycemic carbs immediately following training.

Remember, you can connect with me through email or social media by clicking the links below:

CSFitLife’s Website

CSFitLife on Facebook

CSFitLife on Twitter

[i] Green AL, E Hultman, IA Macdonald, DA Sewell, PL Greenhaff: Carbohydrate ingestion augments skeletal muscle creatine accumulation during creatine supplementation in humans. Am J Physiol 1996. 271:E821-6.

[ii] Steenge GR, EJ Simpson, PL Greenhaff: Protein- and carbohydrate-induced augmentation of whole body creatine retention in humans. J Appl Physiol 2000. 89:1165-71.

[iii] “All About Workout and Post-Workout Nutrition.” Precision Nutrition. 5 Nov. 2007. Web. 19 May 2015. <>.

[iv]Stoppani, Jim. “TO CARB OR NOT TO CARB?” 16 Oct. 2013. Web. 20 May 2015. <>.

[v] Ibid, Stoppani.

[vi] Berardi, John, Thomas Price, Eric Noreen, and Peter Lemon. “Post Exercise Muscle Glycogen Recovery Is Enhanced with a Carbohydrate-protein Supplement.” Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise 38.6 (2006): 1106-113. Print.

[vii] Ibid, Stoppani.

[viii] Ibid, Stoppani.

[ix] Aulin, K., K. Soderlund, and J. Leiper. “Improved Gastric Emptying Rate in Humans of a Unique Glucose Polymer with Gel-forming Properties.” Scand J Gastroenterol 35 (2000): 1143-149. Print.

[x] Aulin, K., K. Soderlund, and E. Hultman. “Muscle Glycogen Resynthesis Rate in Humans after Supplementation of Drinks Containing Carbohydrates with Low and High Molecular Masses.” European Journal of Applied Physiology 81 (2000): 346-51. Print.

[xi] Ibid, Stoppani.


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